Writer from Aberystwyth wins prestigious Prose medal at the National Eisteddfod
A novel about a mother and her 16-year-old daughter with special needs has won its writer the prestigious Prose medal at the 2023 National Eisteddfod.
Meleri Wyn James from Aberystwyth was awarded the medal in a competition that attracted 16 entries.
Writers were invited to submit a volume of creative prose of no more than 40,000 words on the subject ‘Porth’ (Gate). The Medal and the cash prize of £750, are presented in memory of Robyn and Gwenan Léwis by the family.
She started writing the novel Hallt immediately after the Ceredigion National Eisteddfod with the intention of trying to give a voice to children and parents who live with challenges and all the pleasure of navigating life’s journey with additional needs.
The audience in the main pavilion were told the story in ‘Hallt’ (Salty) is told by Elen, the mother, and Cari, the daughter, alternately.
As Cari matures physically and meets new people including a boy, Elen and her husband’s dilemma is how much freedom to allow her.
Delivering the adjudication from the stage on behalf of her fellow judges, Menna Baines said: “This is a gripping story from the beginning building to a dramatic climax. The portrait of Cari is a lovely one.
“Yes, there is a certain inherent awkwardness related to her which makes socialising difficult, but gradually we come to see past that to her affection and her honest, open nature.
“Sometimes, indeed, her honesty wears us down. Like every young person she looks to the future and like every parent her mother has to learn to let go.”
She added Fi a Ti, Ms James’ nom de plume in this competition, is a “very skilled writer” as were two others in the competition.
“But when we discussed and renegotiated, the work we kept coming back to was Fi a Ti’s novel – this simple but layered novel about a mother and daughter relationship and about accepting people as they are. A beautiful, tender and finished novel. An uplifting novel too. Fi a Ti wins this year’s Prose Medal.”
Meleri Wyn James is a writer and creative editor for Y Lolfa. She has published books for children, young people and adults.
She is the author of the popular children’s series Na, Nel! for children, as well as the two shows Na, Nel! which was staged at the Ceredigion National Eisteddfod Pavilion in Tregaron last year and repeated at the Llŷn and Eifionydd National Eisteddfod this year.
She loves to read and write and enjoys going to schools, festivals and eisteddfodau to stimulate children and young people to read and to use their imagination.
Meleri Wyn James was born and brought up in Llandeilo and the family moved to Beulah near Newcastle Emlyn and then to Aberporth. She graduated in Welsh from Aberystwyth University and studied an MA in Creative Writing at Trinity College, Carmarthen.
She published her first book, a collection of short stories called Mwydyn yn yr Afal, after winning the Urdd Eisteddfod Literature Medal in Taf Elái in 1991. In recent years, she published the novel Blaidd wrth y Drws for adults and Cors Caron, a novel for young people.
She has lived in Aberystwyth for over twenty years with her husband, Sion Ilar and their daughters, Mia Seren and Esther Alys.
The winning volume was available to buy at the end of the ceremony.
The full adjudication will be available in the Cyfansoddiadau a Beirniadaethau, published at the end of the Chairing Ceremony on Friday afternoon.
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